Friday, March 1, 2013

Willing to Be Wrong

Sir Ken Robinson, author, TED speaker and advocate for creatives, told a story of a six year-old girl in school.

The girl was sitting in the back of the classroom drawing when the teacher walked back to her and asked “What are you drawing?” “I’m drawing a picture of God," she said. The teacher laughed said, “But nobody knows what God looks like.” And the little girl said “They will in a minute.”


With this tale, Sir Robinson is explaining to us that children aren’t afraid to take chances. If they don’t know something, they’ll risk failing or being wrong. Creativity, in and of itself, isn’t about being wrong, but to quote Sir Robinson: “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”

Children who are still okay with being wrong are the most creative, you can see it by giving them crayons or blocks or paint. Without having much knowledge of the world, kids pour their creativity out in the form of play.

What can we big people learn from this?

My children have always been my best teachers. Through my time with my daughter, Pookie, I've reclaimed the joy of banging on pots with a wooden spoon and I've picked up blocks to build towers with.

Most often, we use our knowledge and life experiences to draw from in creating. Robert Epstein says, “Creativity, in short, is not something mystical; it’s an extension of what you already know. To be more specific, new behaviors (or ideas) emerge as old behaviors interact.”

 I used my art and writing as therapy for a long time. I processed my life experiences and let it all flow down onto the paper because I was denied access to actual therapy for various reasons.

Was everything that came out good? Oh, hell no! But Jack Smith said it best, "You have to be willing to be bad for 20 years in order to be great and, even then, there is no guarantee."

In my younger years, my writing was trite and shallow, but I did have moments of insight and profound wordsmithing. I did have art that was well-received enough to get me a solo gallery showing during my first semester of art school. I was okay with being horrible. I was okay with working for years without success, even though success did come. In this way, I was able to find my authentic voice and deepen my artistic vision. These things only come with time.


But what is the secret to being creative?

Steve Jobs, before his death, explained that “creativity is just connecting things.”

It’s a promoted idea that the best ideas flow from what we already know, like the river that originates from one spring. But what if we don’t know very much? What if we've never been creative in our life, yet have that deep urge to paint or sew or dance or act?

My advice is to watch children. What do children do if they don’t know something? They think about it and give it a whirl. They try. And they try without huge clouds of doubt and fear above their head.


If you go into a kindergarten classroom and ask, "Who can draw me a air plane?" Every single child raises their hand. Somewhere along the line, we are taught that not everyone can draw. Not everyone can write. Not everyone can run well or catch a ball. So, we sit on the sidelines while the star athlete catches the ball. We read and read and read, but never pick up the pen to write our own story.

I've never figured out why or how this process happens. All I know is that, somewhere, we learn that if you do something badly, you shouldn't do it at all. We're taught that making a mistake leads to mocking, to torment and to ostracism. It opens us up to hurtful criticism and social pitfalls. We think that being wrong makes us look like a newbie (which we often are at new things, but no one wants to be called that).

In Buddhism, they talk about approaching things with a beginner's mind. That means a fresh perspective. To approach something as if you've never done it before. From this mindset, new ideas emerge and innovations are spawned.

If you wanted to make yourself an outfit, but had no idea about what society says you should wear, how would you dress? I think fashion designers (especially the couture ones) think like this a lot. And it's awesome! It's new and exciting and spins our eyes and our thoughts in a whole new way.

My lovelies, this weekend, I want to encourage you to risk being wrong. I want you to do something you think you're bad at and try to be okay with it. If you're not "the best" at something, it's okay! It just means that you're learning and that is a very precious time.

My beautiful souls, I believe that we can release all these negative ideas about ourselves. So what if I can't shoot a three-pointer in basketball if my life depended on it. So what if, when I try to draw a shoe, it kinda looks like a space craft? Who says that there can't be a race of little alien toe people who just love flying around in their loafer-ship?

Mischievous toe-alien

Reach, my darlings. Stretch! Go beyond what you think you can do and be willing to be bad at it. It's only through being "bad" that we learn how to do the best that we can. No one expects you to come into this life, rip roaring and ready to paint The Sistine Chapel at 8 months old. We've all got to work at it and that's completely okay.


And please remember, my precious loves, we are all visionaries. We just have to figure out where we excel.

Until next time, love to all.

-Bri


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